Design for Good: Pepe Heykoop and the Tiny Miracles Foundation

02.01.13 | By
Design for Good: Pepe Heykoop and the Tiny Miracles Foundation


What do you do if your cousin is on a mission to take a community of 700 people living on the streets in Mumbai India, and turn them from “very poor” to “middle class” in just eight years? If you’re Pepe Heykoop, you set about designing products that they can make and teaching them the skills required to make them, providing them with the income they need to escape abject poverty. It was an honor to meet him at IMM Cologne.

Pepe Heykoop and Tiny Miracles leather lightshade

He was showcasing two products; the Leather Lampshade and the Paper Vase cover – which uses simple folding techniques to provide a decorative cover for bottles which are thrown away all over India, turning them into something useful.

Pepe Heykoop and Tiny Miracles paper vase

Pepe’s cousin is Laurien Meuter, founder of The Tiny Miracles Foundation, an organization which believes they can make the world a better place, but that in order to do so, they need focus. So they have picked one street in Mumbai’s red light district, home to the Pardeshi community.

Pepe Heykoop and Tiny Miracles leather lampshade

Their ambition is that by 2020 the community that currently lives on the sidewalks of this street will be self-supporting, have the education and healthcare equivalent to the middle classes and an income of at least $8 per person per day. But perhaps most importantly; that their children will grow up with happy memories. 

The community’s economy used to rely on selling cane baskets, but the market for these products has dried up. There simply aren’t other jobs in the area, so Dutch designer Pepe Heykoop has set up his workshop right in the middle of the community and from there teaches people the skills they need to make the products he’s designed for them – products for which there is a market. In so doing his is providing the people in the community with work and a steady income.

The resulting products looked perfectly at home alongside the high end designer accessories on display at IMM Cologne. The only difference being that buying these products will change somebody’s life. What an inspiring story!

Pepe Heykoop and Tiny Miracles leather lampshade

With thanks to Modenus and BlogTourCGN sponsors, MieleBlancoMr SteamDu Verre HandwareAxor and NKBA

Katie Treggiden is a purpose-driven journalist, author and, podcaster championing a circular approach to design – because Planet Earth needs better stories. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a program and membership community for designer-makers who want to join the circular economy. With 20 years' experience in the creative industries, she regularly contributes to publications such as The Guardian, Crafts Magazine and Monocle24 – as well as being Editor at Large for Design Milk. She is currently exploring the question ‘can craft save the world?’ through an emerging body of work that includes her fifth book, Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure (Ludion, 2020), and a podcast, Circular with Katie Treggiden.